I love football movies of all kinds (though I strongly dislike watching actual football games) -- The Blind Side, Little Giants, Remember The Titans, Jerry McGuire, Forest Gump. Bring on the sentimentality and the cliches because I love them all! But Rudy (1993) based on a true story starring Goonies alum Sean Astin, which I watched for the first time last night, is the current contender for #1.
10 minutes into this movie and I'm already crying. It has all the right ingredients for an American football film icon: an unlikely hero from a working class town with a heart of gold, a big seemingly unachievable goal for higher education, a constant chorus of you-can't-do-its, college branding, fall colors, and wide-angle shots of quiet misty mornings. It's got it all. Needless to say that I was an emotional mess by the end of it. Sean Astin was absolute perfection in his acting, along with Jon Favreau as the sidekick who never gives up and a young Vince Vaughn as an arrogant jock who Rudy ultimately inspires. I gave Rudy a 5-star review on Amazon streaming, tissues still in hand.
Out of 709 reviews, 85% were 5-stars, 8% 4-stars, 4% 3-stars, 1% 2-stars, and 2% 1-star. What cruel people would give this wonderful heartwarming film a 1- or 2-star review? What could they possibly hate about it?
Most of the negative reviews concerned technical challenges -- the DVD was broken, the streaming quality was bad, the sound was too low, and etc. One person complained that there was too much "potty mouth." Another expressed his dislike that the characters "took the Lord's name in vain." Someone else said Rudy was a "pathetic" character with an unhealthy obsession for Notre Dame, which 12 people found helpful on Amazon.
But one 2-star review in particular stood out:
Unremarkable. Trying to make a hero out of someone who was just dishonest. Read up on the guy and he actually was dishonest in business after college as well.
A quick Google search confirmed the bad news: in 2011, Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger along with a dozen associates were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors. It was a "pump and dump" scheme for a sports drink company named "Rudy." It's tagline: "Dream Big! Never Quit!"
“Investors were lured into the scheme by Mr. Ruettiger's well-known, feel-good story but found themselves in a situation that did not have a happy ending,” said Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The tall tales in this elaborate scheme included phony taste tests and other false information that was used to convince investors they were investing in something special.”
The New York Times wrote about the fraud, here. Forbes did too, here.
First Disney and now this. Is there nothing we can believe in anymore? It's hard to not get angry. Where's the responsibility of the filmmakers? The writers? The book publishers? The people peddling his brand? Who's fault is it? Rudy's fault? Big business'? Notre Dame's? Hollywood's? Evil corporations'? The finger pointing can go on and on.
And on and on it goes.
Such is the story of man's folly in The Garden of Eden. When God asked who took the fruit from the serpent, Adam pointed the finger to Eve, "She made me do it." And out they both go...condemned to suffering for all of eternity.
We have Adam and Eve to blame for this too. So at least there's that.
I have many questions and no answers. Instead, I'll leave you with a quote from Father Cavanaugh's character from Rudy, which I think encapsulates the ironies:
"Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: There is a God. And I'm not Him."
In the days leading up to June 17, 1995, the local Chinese TV and radio stations were all talks about the upcoming game. Whole programs devoted to player interviews, analysis, players' family interviews, more analysis, celebration coverage, practice coverage, uniform coverage, dramatic reenactments. My dad jerry-rigged our home entertainment system so that the TV was connected to the stereo, which was connected to an amp, which was connected to two VCRs that recorded simultaneously so he could send one of the VHS tapes to his unfortunate co-worker at the motel who had to work on game day. Mom's co-workers called, Dad's boss called, even overseas uncles who were usually too cheap to call long distance for New Years spent big RMBs to talk about this showdown. The game, of course, was soccer: the Women's World Cup, China vs. USA.
Tensions were high then. In the world, US-China relations were strained over who owned Taiwan. Clinton criticized Bush for a "soft" attitude towards China while the administration allowed Taiwan's president for a highly publicized visit to the US and China was rolling its eyes like, "Who the hell do you think you are to Big Brother this?" Like the lunchroom scene from Mean Girls (great movie, by the way), it was a total diplomatic diss.
At home, we were a conflicted household. Who to root for? Who to stand with? China or the US? The land that birthed us or the land to which we immigrated? Like adopted children, the question was much more than a sports team--it was about nature vs. nurture, a question of loyalty and identity. The choice was easier for my parents since they had spent most of their lives in China, but for me, I was right in the middle at 10 years-old: 5 years raised in China, 5 years raised in the US.
It's easy to hate the US (in soccer at least) because we have such little following. Soccer is not an All-American sport. Football is, or baseball, or basketball. Even ice hockey would rank above soccer. It's hard for most Americans to name a team on the NALS or the MLS. Bring this to a global stage where soccer is akin to religion for countries in Europe, Asia, South America, Middle East and soccer becomes more than just a sport. It's a stage for politics. For most of these economically weaker countries, especially countries where the US had dealt with heavy handedly, it becomes the only opportunity for the people to regain some dignity. Just because you have money, you control the world. Well, we can still kick your ass on the field.
At a party recently, I met a fellow writer who told me a similar story about the World Cup in the late 80s when Mexico played against the US. He said his Mexican-born father was angry for days after that game because Mexico lost. Like me, this writer was conflicted--Who do I root for? Where do I belong? Who am I, really? He told me his father blamed the bad call on the field. He yelled. He threw things. He even cried.
Yes, people cry at soccer. Burly men with big muscles will cry at a soccer game. No one cries at a baseball game, or a football game.
When Mia Hamm scored that second goal with a 40 yard run at minute 55, the US was already leading 1-0. Tisha Venturini had scored the previous goal at minute 24 and all eyes were on China to bounce back or else...lose the whole game. But they never bounced back, not that game at least. The entire PRC team cried. Dad cried. Mom cried. My cousins cried. I hadn't yet figured out where I belonged.
The game ended by late morning and we all went back to bed. We never watched soccer again in our house.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).